How to Lose Your Mind

after Annie Leibovitz
Watercolor and pencil
"Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen - that stillness becomes a radiance."
—Morgan Freeman
The advantage of practice

I have not been able to think clearly for hours. I blame it on a cluttered mind and temporary poor nutrition. And yet, I have work to do.

This is where discipline (also known as practice) comes in handy.

I could not decide what to write about. I could not decide what to draw or paint. So I followed a tried and true approach—
  • Quit thinking about it and make space,
  • Take imperfect action,
  • Do the best you can,
  • Let go of the results.
I picked up the closest image to hand (an Annie Leibovitz portrait of George Clooney in his house on Lake Cuomo) and made a quick sketch copy. Then I decided to write about my condition.

Rather than trying to engage my mind to figure it all out, I let go of the mental process and put pen, pencil and brush to paper, and fingers to the keyboard. I let go of any worry about results or perfection.

My muscles and practices are strong enough now after years of daily exercising to take action without over thinking. I might not hit whatever it is out of the park but at least I step up and swing the bat. Anyway, who knows? I might try something new, do something different. Learn something!

The truth is that in order to do any sort of creative work, we have to step out of the stream of thinking, find that space of stillness and then take action while letting go of attachment to the results.

We all have days of muddled thinking and indecisiveness. If our muscles are primed and our habits are well enough established, we can carry out most of our work anyway.

It helps that I've established daily practices, but the most helpful practice has been learning to put my thinking aside in order to take action.

It's no coincidence that yesterday afternoon, a friend mentioned what is sometimes referred to as The Four Fold Way.
  • Show up
  • Pay attention
  • Tell the truth
  • Be open to outcome
Not unrelated!
"Spontaneous action is joyful action, and that is true creativity."
—Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

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Ask For Help

Give and Receive
Watercolor, 5 x 7
“When you're drowning, you don't say 'I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me,' you just scream."
― John Lennon
Ask for help

Within a few weeks of my move to Raleigh, my car broke down on a Saturday at noon, far from my temporary digs. I had no choice. I had to ask for help.

First I asked two men who were gabbing nearby. They came over and one made an educated guess about the problem which made sense. I called a tow truck.

On the way to the mechanic's, the (awesome) tow truck driver bragged (with good reason) about his children and, after parking my car outside the (closed) garage gates, drove me home because he thought it was too far for me to walk.

With paintings to frame and a show to install in a matter of days, I had a bunch of errands to run and the small matter of hauling my work to the gallery. I cobbled together a list of numbers and started making calls.

Complete strangers were more than happy to pick up and drop something off for me and to give me a lift and to help me haul my work to the gallery and to drive me home. I was passed from one helping hand to another, safely and sound, met some really great people and had fun getting to know each of them a little.

Here's what I was once again reminded of:

• We're all part of the same energetic fabric.
• Asking for, giving and allowing ourselves to receive help stitches and weaves that unfurling energetic fabric.
• We might hesitate to ask for help because we're afraid (that we'll look weak, stupid or become indebted.)
• When we're afraid to ask for, or to give help, we create a snag or a rip in that magical fabric of life (could fall through!)
• Helping others makes us feel really good.

The next time you need help and discover that you're afraid to ask for it, summon up your courage, pick up the phone or knock on a door and open your mouth to ask.

Asking for help is an opportunity for adventure, fun, socializing, friendship and... a way to help someone else feel good.

Please and Thank You

Okay, so here's what I need help with.

My goal right now is to build my mailing list. If you appreciate my posts from over the years or now, for the first time here's how you can help.

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I'm grateful that you're reading and for any efforts to help me meet my goal!
“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want."
― Zig Ziglar

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All You Need

Suzanne McDermott

Love, love, love
"Where there is love there is life."
— Mahatma Gandhi
Sublimate, sublimate...

That was my mother's mantra for a while. At least in response to yours truly. At least during my teenage years.

Basically, her advice, upon listening to my insistence or resistance, was to transform whatever I was wanting, whining about or otherwise going through, into some higher experience or form.

I was remembering her words today just as I wanted to crawl into bed for a long winter's nap rather than compose this thing.

My mother (who bristled at being called "She" and once exclaimed "If I hear the word "Mom" one more time, I'm going to pop!"), always directed me to the dictionary when I didn't understand the meaning a word she used. So...

verb ˈsəbləˌmāt/ (esp. in psychoanalytic theory) divert or modify (an instinctual impulse) into a culturally higher or socially more acceptable activity.
synonyms: channel, control, divert, transfer, redirect, convert

Sublimation is a transformative act and, as such, must ultimately be an act of love. It just so happens to be Valentine's Day week, So, I make this a little Valentine to you all.

(Plus, the Valentine watercolor above has inaugurated my brand new drafting table and forced me to assemble my Aalto stool. Yay!)
"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage."
—Lao Tzu

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Good Fortune!

Green Wood Horse
Suzanne McDermott
The spirited horse, which will try to win the race of its own accord, will run even faster if encouraged.
― Ovid
The Green Wood Horse

Rarin' to Go.

So many chances for new beginnings this year!

Today marks the first day of the Chinese Astrological Year of the Horse. I moved into a new home | studio | office over the weekend and am surrounded by boxes. Happy but tired and short on brain power. So, rather than write this week, I'll share links and images.

I did find the stamina to to make the above quick painting (over my keyboard, with little light) in celebration of the new astrological year. It's after a sketch I made some years back of a glazed, earthenware horse from the Tang dynasty, early 8th century A.D. at the MFA in Boston.

This painting is a good way to christen the creative energy in the new house and to kick off the new astrological year. I'm a Horse, too, so I'm looking forward to a good year.

I'm not off the mark. My first dinner (at the Red Dragon across the street) was accompanied by a handful of fortune cookies and all of them were good (or true.)

See two of them below.

Here's my original sketch at the MFA Boston:

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a horse master. He told me to go slow to go fast. I think that applies to everything in life. We live as though there aren't enough hours in the day but if we do each thing calmly and carefully we will get it done quicker and with much less stress.
—Viggo Mortensen
Click on the links below to read up on the new year and you!

Risa D'Angeles on the Green Wood Horse.

Chinese Fortune Calendar.

Find your Chinese Astrological sign.


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